ANALYSIS: The US military sees the next 30 to 40 years as involving a state of continuous war against ideologically-motivated terrorists and competing with Russia and China for natural resources and markets, writes Tom Clonan
AS GENERAL Ray Odierno takes command of US forces in Baghdad from troop surge architect Gen David Petraeus, America has begun planning in earnest for its phased withdrawal.
The extra brigade combat teams – or battlegroups – deployed to Iraq by Petraeus have already withdrawn and a further 8,000 troops have been diverted to Afghanistan.
In January, the next president of the United States will conclude America’s timetable for withdrawal in final negotiations with the Iraqi government.
Further evidence of America’s future military intentions is contained in recently published strategy documents issued by the US military.
Under the auspices of the US department of defence and department of the army, the US military have just published a document entitled 2008 Army Modernization Strategy which makes for interesting reading against the current backdrop of deteriorating international fiscal, environmental, energy resource and security crises.
The 2008 modernisation strategy, written by Lieut Gen Stephen Speakes, deputy chief of staff of the US army, contains the first explicit and official acknowledgement that the US military is dangerously overstretched internationally. It states simply: “The army is engaged in the third-longest war in our nation’s history and . . . the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) has caused the army to become out of balance with the demand for forces exceeding the sustainable supply.”
Against this backdrop, the 90 page document sets out the future of international conflict for the next 30 to 40 years – as the US military sees it – and outlines the manner in which the military will sustain its current operations and prepare and “transform” itself for future “persistent” warfare.
The document reveals a number of profoundly significant – and worrying – strategic positions that have been adopted as official doctrine by the US military. In its preamble, it predicts a post cold war future of “perpetual warfare”.
According to its authors: “We have entered an era of persistent conflict . . . a security environment much more ambiguous and unpredictable than that faced during the cold war.”
It then goes on to describe the key features of this dawning era of continuous warfare. Some of the characteristics are familiar enough to a world audience accustomed to the rhetoric of the global war on terror.
“A key current threat is a radical, ideology-based, long-term terrorist threat bent on using any means available – to include weapons of mass destruction – to achieve its political and ideological ends.”
Relatively new, “emerging” features are also included in the document’s rationale for future threats.
“We face a potential return to traditional security threats posed by emerging near-peers as we compete globally for depleting natural resources and overseas markets.”
This thinly-veiled reference to Russia and China will, perhaps, come as little surprise given recent events in Ossetia and Abkhazia. The explicit reference in this context to future resource wars, however, will probably raise eyebrows among the international diplomatic community, who prefer to couch such conflicts as human rights-based or rooted in notions around freedom and democracy.
The document, however, contains no such lofty pretences. It goes on to list as a pre-eminent threat to the security of the US and its allies “population growth – especially in less-developed countries – [which] will expose a resulting ‘youth bulge’.”
This youth bulge, the document goes on to state, will present the US with further “resource competition” in that these expanding populations in the developing world “will consume ever increasing amounts of food, water and energy”.
The document goes on to describe in broad-strokes the manner in which its downsized military might ensure survival of the fittest for the US and its allies in future resource wars for water, food and energy.
As a consequence of identifying growing populations in the developed world as a threat in itself, the strategy document highlights a number of paradigm shifts in the way future wars are to be conducted.
It predicts that “21st Century operations will require soldiers to engage among populations and diverse cultures instead of avoiding them”.
The document reveals that new US tactical doctrine provides a template by which air, naval and field commanders will no longer just secure traditional strategic targets such as airspace, seaports and bridgeheads, but will, of necessity, also deploy and fight amongst and against the target population itself to win wars.
The document refers to this euphemistically as “commanders employing offensive, defensive and stability or civil support operations simultaneously”.
The remainder of the document is devoted to describing in detail how a downsized all volunteer US military – numbering approximately one million soldiers, aircrew and sailors – could maintain an ever-present, international, offensive posture in many countries across many time-zones.
It describes how information communication technologies and digital technologies will create a new “networked” human soldier – the ‘Future Force Warrior’ – who will deploy among the target population and will operate simultaneously several remote, unmanned ground and air weapons systems.
To this end, the US military is rapidly expanding its inventory of computerised, robotic ground weapons and unmanned aerial vehicles .
According to the strategy document, by supplementing relatively small forces of US troops – brigade combat teams – with ever-larger fleets of remotely controlled, unmanned weapons systems, America will be able to successfully deploy its downsized military to maximum effect among the emerging international youth bulge.
Supplementing these future global offensive operations, according to the strategy document, is the US military’s planned domination of inner space or the earth’s exo-atmospheric zone.
The document states: “Space is a significant area of joint development that supports battle space awareness and is the backbone for the national and military intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance architecture, as well as being the domain of choice for commercial broad-area sensing enterprises with military utility.”
Together with the US Missile Defence Agency, the US military is currently developing “space-based assets continuously monitoring the globe”.
The report elaborates on this by stating that “army space forces are deployed worldwide supporting US efforts to fight and win [the global war on terror].”
The report adds that US military “space control operations ensure freedom of action in space for the United States and its allies and when necessary, deny an adversary freedom of action in space”.
The document refers to operations in Iraq in the past tense. It implies that operations in Afghanistan may be expanded.
It states explicitly that the US military is preparing to fight continuous resource wars “for the long haul”.
The document also describes explicitly the manner in which the earth’s orbit is now deemed a legitimate zone for offensive military activity. This extraordinary document describes US strategic doctrine in terms worthy of 20th century science fiction.
The mix of 20th century science fiction and Orwellian perspectives unwittingly contained in the document appear rapidly to be materialising as fact.
Dr Tom Clonan is the Irish Times Security Analyst. He lectures in the School of Media, DIT. firstname.lastname@example.org